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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Guerilla Gardening

A seed is a pretty nice metaphor for activism and societal change; all those nutrient-rich cells forming the nucleus of life itself, just waiting to spring forth as new bodies of life. You water a seed, give it a nice food and a warm home, and then BAM! Fruitful resistance blossoms. I’m not saying that all gardening is necessarily resistance (although one could argue that it is, given our predominantly eco-distant and supermarket-supreme culture), but guerrilla gardening is definitely a form of activism.

Usually when you mention guerrilla gardening, people begin asking interested questions about the lifestyles of herbivorous primates. To halt visions of vegetable-fuelled rampages in Tokyo, it helps to define ‘guerrilla’ as an “irregular armed force” and explain that ‘guerrilla gardening’ is the creation of gardens on land that doesn’t belong to you, without permission from the land owners. Guerrilla gardening could describe how your Aunt Barbara’s dahlia bed is encroaching on her neighbour’s yard, but more commonly refers to deliberate and politically-charged acts of re-vegetation.

Neglected private or state land may be reclaimed by gardeners for a number of reasons: to produce food for individuals or communities; to beautify community areas; to bring life into urban landscapes; to highlight issues of land rights and ownership; or as a form of societal critique. In the United Kingdom, members of the “Pansy Project” plant flowers in public places where homophobic attacks have occurred.

There’s a variety of guerrilla gardening methods out there. One idea would be to sneak, balaclava-shrouded, down Lambton Quay at 3am, leaving tubs of flax at every bus stop. Or your whanau could plant cabbages and carrots in the round-a-bout down the road. Perhaps you and your crew could spend an afternoon creating ‘seed bombs’—dried balls of seeds, clay and compost—to throw at vacant lots and car parks as you cycle through the city.

I’m not really a gardener, although in February I did watch a friend tie green beans up with string. And once I fell out of a lemon tree. So I decided to undertake the simplest act of guerrilla gardening imaginable: throwing seeds around the outskirts of Aro Valley Park. It wasn’t very dramatic: a woman curiously glanced my way before continuing to tow her small pug along; a busker smiled at me so I glared back at him suspiciously. I would sincerely doubt anyone remotely involved in Aro Park cares about floral additions to the neighbourhood. Will my efforts result in a glorious efflorescence of resistance? Probably not, but at least I got my feet wet (or nails dirty). Next stop: sowing silverbeet seeds on a traffic island.

Try as I might, I can’t see anything wrong with guerrilla gardening. Growing edible and/or beautiful plants in misused or neglected places is indisputably positive.

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  1. Raj says:

    I love gardening, but only to grow flower and summer stuff, never try to grow a vegetable etc; but it’s a good experince to have those in your garden.

  2. Anja says:

    Why not? Planting flowers is never a bad thing in my opinion….Definetly better than looking at other peoples weeds!
    You can learn a lot about gardening and planting perennial flowers here: http://www.gardening-advice.net/perennial-garden-plants.html

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